Spherical DNA Prostate Cancer Vaccine

Northwestern SNA

Prostate cancer occurs in nearly 20 percent of males and is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in men. Immunotherapy is an important pillar of treatment, as it harnesses the body’s natural ability to kill foreign invaders and reprograms it against cancer. However, traditional approaches to generating prostate cancer vaccines have, so far, been limited in their effectiveness. Support from the Bachrach family has enabled Professor Chad Mirkin and his team at Northwestern University to make significant advances in developing novel nanotechnology-based immunotherapeutic vaccines for the treatment of prostate cancer. These researchers have developed spherical nucleic acids (SNAs), a type of nanoscale architecture composed of a nanoparticle core that is surface functionalized with a dense and radially oriented DNA shell. They have shown that while simple mixture vaccines (i.e., non-SNA form) are significantly inferior against model cancers, the unique structural makeup of SNAs dramatically improves the vaccine’s effectiveness. This work holds promise to develop effective immunotherapy vaccines not only for prostate cancer, but for many other types of cancer as well.